by Jason Njoku
Nope. Not even close to it. There has been a chorus of all types of strange sayings recently about the imminent demise of iROKING platform and aggregation business. But then for the first time in over a year I actually looked at the revenue numbers. Although there are a number of issues I cannot address here, there is one I most definitely can. IROKING is not dead. It is still very much alive. Revenues are my metric of business success and iROKING has recurring scalable revenue. iROKOtv had its 2nd birthday yesterday. Today I am taking the reigns of iROKING. As the CEO. My baby has found its home with its founding father. Me.
In May 2011, I founded what became iROKING. All the early pitches I did myself. I had a 2 person team of executives supporting me but all chips were with me. I remember making myself ill sitting in traffic and running around Lagos trying to sign up musicians to the digital platform of the future. iROKING. I didn’t name iROKING though that has to go to Thelma or Henry who were working with me at the time. Those were brutal times pre-Tiger funding. NollywoodLove was profitable so we had the cash flow. I got so ill in fact I had to fly back to the UK to seek medical help. So after founding a company and hiring a CEO several months later to do a job and allowing me to take a back seat, I have had little to no input for the last 18 months. It was much easier to keep the iROKING narrative and communication separate whilst building the iROKOtv brand. Now, levels have changed. I am less of a founder now and more a CEO.
But now, all things considered, iROKING needs its principal promoter, its founder, its creator to step in and reiterate why it is still arguably the most valuable digital distribution platform on the continent. I have spent the last few weeks re-engaging with the remaining members of the iROKING team and trying to understand the business we have collectively created to date. There is a new, simple strategic vision.
Building a platform
Currently, iROKING has several hundred musicians on the platform. We distribute their music across third party channels (YouTube, Dailymotion, iTunes, Spotify et al) as well as our own platforms we operate too, including m.iroking and iroking.com and our Android, Asha and W8 apps. Today, the business in the last 2 years has easily paid out over $ 1Mn in minimum guarantees and revenue share to musicians. The business generates tens of thousands of dollars monthly for the music industry at large. We have done this by simplifying multi-platform digitisation and distribution at a scale which makes it almost free for us to do this.
Across the entire network of platforms, iROKING reaches 5Mn uniques per month. 1Mn of those are on our own platforms alone. That is actually double the reach of people than iROKOtv gets. Full Stop. The only difference is that we make huge amounts of money on iROKOtv and considerably less on iROKNIG. There are strategic and industry structural issues which determine that. But, nonetheless, I would argue with anyone that month-on-month cash flow-wise, there is no other music startup which comes close our monthly cash flow. None.
iROKING is still unprofitable. It is something I don’t lose sleep over as typically when you are building and growing something you are usually happy to forgo short term profits for longer term strategic and economic advantage. Then we plan for significant profits later. As a subsidiary of iROKO, iROKING still benefits from our super strong balance sheet and as the CEO of iROKO (and now iROKING) I have all the authority to do as I see fit to build the most awesome music startup in Nigeria. Patiently.
People talk about the threat of Spotify, Deezer how all the music startups are going to die. We see it differently. We already distribute, and for some time have been distributing, via Spotify. What the bloggers may see as competition, we see as something completely different. But time will tell whether I am right or wrong. That’s the great thing about the business of startups. You are either right or wrong.
Focus on monetization.
iROKO has the most awesome team at monetizing Nigerian content online. We have built a multi-million dollar business in 2 years, distributing movies on iROKOtv. In 2013 our largest source of revenue is iROKOtv PLUS, our $ 5/mth subscription service. We have institutionalised managing and taking tens of thousands of payments directly from fans globally. Of the overall revenue, iROKING represents a mere 15% of our annual income, whilst at a monthly reach of 4Mn, 75% of our 6Mn unique per month reach. That for me is opportunity. Again my focus is to bridge that gap. In the end I founded iROKING. I know what it took to build the business we have today. iROKING is no longer a startup. It has recurring revenues, several hundred artist relationships and a lot of potential to live up to.
In the end the company that generates the most revenue for the industry at large will stay in the game. Those who do not, will not. It’s that simple. I like simple things. IROKOtv was built on such a mantra.
I am super happy to be back in the driving seat and ready to make a little dent in the Nigerian digital music universe.
Founder and returning CEO of iROKING
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